Is there such a thing as an unholy grail? My fellow columnist, Ellie’s holy grail of comics is Wonder Woman and the Star Riders.
Solarman might just be the opposite. It might be the monkey’s paw. It might be the box. There are stories of Solarman, but no one will confirm or deny.
I came across this comic book during a back issue mining expedition. I gazed with wonder upon it. Before I read it, I did some research. I wanted to know what I was getting into. I cast all my buff spells.
Solarman may have been the last character Stan Lee wrote for Marvel comics. Marvel had big expectations for Solarman, offering a poster, and even producing an animated television pilot.
Ok, but why were only two issues produced? That was the mystery. This was network television. You didn’t get numbers and then cancel something after one or two episodes (farewell Lone Star, I have a theory about you and James Wolk, breakout star from Mad Men, but that will wait for later). Only two issues seems unfathomable. Art must have been done, scripts must have been written.
What evil lay within these pages?
Some historical perspective: 1987 saw the Giffen/ Maguire/ DeMatteis Justice League title launching, and Marvel was beginning to see work by such artists as this guy named Jim Lee. So, maybe Solarman was anomalous of the time, maybe it was a little behind the times, but a good comic is still a good comic, right?
Certainly, 1989 was a time when the comic landscape was beginning to change, so maybe that is it. Maybe this was the comic book equivalent of It’s A Wonderful Life, Office Space, or Fight Club, commercial failures, but now considered classics?
I rolled initiative and began to read. I was ready.
The art is quaint; nothing terrible. Jim Mooney is the artist, he was older in 1989, but had a respectable portfolio of work.
Blue skinned aliens want to rule the universe. Old man alien doesn’t like evil alien overlord. Old man alien also has white hair and a beard. Ok, I’m still invested, I can appreciate this stuff. Wait… is that a robot named Beepie?
Ok… so maybe this was meant to appeal to kids, that makes sense, a bit immature, harkening back to annoying sidekicks on classic 80s action cartoons. I took a deep breath and continued reading. I should have stopped.
The protagonist looks like Peter Parker, maybe with slightly wilder hair, and shorter. He is supposed to be working out on the Exerciser. Alien crash lands, when he pulls himself from the ocean, bystanders think he looks drunk, not noticing he has BLUE SKIN! Our hero shows up, helps the alien, and ala Green Lantern, he has cool powers.
Oh, did I mention the protagonist wants to be an artist… for Marvel Comics?!? The rest of the issue plays out pretty much as you might guess…. not well.
When Seeker 3000 gets a shout-out by Brian Michael Bendis, and Wolf from Team America/ Thunderiders gets a mention as a possible recruit in the Initiative program, and US 1 shows up with Deadpool and even in the Avengers, I know that I am not alone in embracing some of the more obscure parts of the Marvel Universe. But Solarman, after Issue 2, nothing. No ironic mentions. Solarman is still out there in the Marvel Universe. Maybe someone needs to do something with him. Alan Moore?
The Back Issue Bin is a regular feature where we revisit and examine something from the past, either an old favorite, or something recently introduced to us. It could be a run of comics, an old game, a movie, tv show, anything that strikes our fancy.